According to a report by the Institute of Medicine, around 5 percent of adults who seek outpatient medical care are incorrectly diagnosed in some way. Worse, it is estimated that those mistakes factor into approximately 10 percent of patient deaths in Arizona and across the United States.
When patients are misdiagnosed, they may receive unnecessary treatments while their real condition is left undetected and untreated. Rare diseases and illnesses are most likely to confound doctors, but common medical issues, such as heart attacks and some cancers, are also frequently misdiagnosed. For example, many heart attack patients are known to present with chest or left-arm pain, but less common symptoms like neck and back pain, dizziness and nausea can be missed by doctors. Meanwhile, around 10 percent of colorectal, breast and lung cancer patients and 9 percent of stroke victims experience delayed diagnosis. Pulmonary embolisms and drug overdoses are also often misdiagnosed.
There are a few things patients can do to increase their chances of being properly diagnosed. Experts suggest that people carefully document the timeline and severity of their symptoms. They should also be truthful about any substances they are using, including alcohol, painkillers and cigarettes. People should always follow up on abnormal test results and never be afraid to ask for a second opinion. If a medication doesn’t seem to be working, patients should inform their doctors.
A doctor’s failure to diagnose can have serious consequences, including a worsened medical condition and even death. A person who has been the victim of a misdiagnosis may want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney to determine the options that may be available for seeking compensation for the damages that have been incurred.